Brad’s Search : Part 10


“I hope you guys are playing a sick joke on me.”

“I wish we were. We saw him in the lobby when we got here.”

“Is he with anyone?”

“We can’t tell, but I doubt he’s here by himself.”

“Well, there’s not much we can do. Let’s steer clear as best we can.” I took a deep breath. “As if this weekend couldn’t get any more awkward.”

Gary, Harry, and I take the rest of the bags up to the rooms. Mom’s room is right across the hall from mine and Kelly’s. Gary and Gina are staying down the hall, and Harry is next-door to them all by himself, though we presume Julia will join him tomorrow.

* * * * *

All of us are pretty hungry - me especially, since I only had a tiny breakfast sandwich at Starbucks just before my meeting this morning. We all head downstairs to the lodge’s restaurant. Most of us have already met, but it was Mom and Kelly’s first time meeting Gina. The three get introduced and acquainted quickly. All I really care about is that the restaurant has a bar.

Dinner goes smoothly. As we leave the restaurant, Mom remarks that she’s had a rather long day with her flight and that she’s turning in early. The rest of us bid her a good night and sit in the lobby, where the lodge staff has built a rather impressive fire.

I ask the group, “What are our plans for tomorrow?”

Harry chimes in. “Julia told me that she’s getting here with her group a little before noon. She’s bringing her skis. Gary and I have mine; what about you, Brad?”

“I have my snowboard. I’m a bit rusty, but I should pick it right back up. Just like riding a bicycle.”

“Or sex,” Harry quips. I give him the evil eye. He turns his attention to Kelly. “Do you ski or snowboard?”

“I’ve never even been this close to a mountain. I’d certainly like to try, though.”

“I’m sure Brad won’t mind showing you the ropes.”

“That sounds fun. I guess I could go for that.”

“Don’t worry; I’ll go easy on you, Kelly.”

“Go easy? You think I can’t handle it, big boy?”

Harry starts chuckling, but Gary slaps his shoulder to stop him.

“Gina, what about you?”

“No, thanks. I’m only here as eye candy for Gary,” she jokes. “I’m not a big fan of the cold. I’ve tried skiing and snowboarding, but my whole body tenses up when it gets below freezing. Plus, I’m sure Sharon would appreciate some extra company.”

“That would be nice, and yes, she would definitely appreciate it.”

I stretch out my arms. “It sounds like we have a long day ahead of us. Kelly, are you ready to head up?”

“Yeah, that sounds like a good idea.”

We go over to the fire to warm up one last time before turning in for the evening.

* * * * *

Kelly and I step inside our room. She goes into the bathroom while I open my suitcase and pick out some warm pajamas. I pull off my jeans and put on the pajamas.

“Sharon seems really nice.”

“Nice? She’s fantastic.”

I crawl under the covers when Kelly emerges, wearing barely anything at all.

“I hope you don’t turn into an ice cube in the middle of the night.”

“Not if you keep me warm, my big grizzly bear.”

“Grizzly bear?”

“All right, you’re more like an otter, but still.”

Kelly gets under the covers, and I wrap my arm around her shoulder. It all seems completely natural.

“I don’t think you ever mentioned your father.”

“Wow, where to begin? He was a great guy.”

“Was?”

“Yeah; he died about five years ago.”

“Oh, Brad, I’m sorry.”

I take a deep breath.

“I didn’t really know him that well. He was in the Air Force and spent most of the time stationed away from home. He enlisted before I was born, and he stayed with Mom and I until I was about 3 or 4. After that, he was mostly away.”

I could feel a tear rolling down my cheek. I wipe it away.

“It’s OK if you don’t want to talk about it.”

“No, it’s fine. I’m just not used to telling other people about him. Anyway, he came from a rich family. He didn’t have to worry about money at all; he could’ve gone to school and gotten any degree he wanted. But that all seemed superficial to him. He wouldn’t have felt like he was making a contribution, so he joined the Air Force instead.”

“What did he do in the Air Force?”

“He flew helicopters. Even during wartime. Most of his work was going into enemy territory and doing medical evacuations. It was pretty dangerous stuff.”

“He sounds really brave.”

“He was.”

There are a few seconds of silence.

“When was the last time you saw him?”

“About five years ago. He was able to get leave and came to visit my mom and me when I was still going to college in Colorado. He was at my graduation and had to go back the day after. The last thing he told me was how proud he was of me.”

I take another deep breath.

“That’s the last time both my mom and I saw him.”

Kelly leans in and gives me a kiss. A kiss unlike one I’ve ever had before. This kiss wasn’t romantic or sexual - it was pure sympathy. Something to make me feel that I was not alone, and that everything would be OK. I return the kiss, and Kelly and I spend the next few seconds staring into each other’s eyes. She then places her hand on my cheek. “Thank you for sharing that with me.”

All I could muster is a half-smile. “We have a lot of fun in store tomorrow, so let’s get some sleep, OK?”

“Sounds good.” Kelly gives me one more peck on the lips, and we settle in and drift off to sleep.